Category: Jewish Sports History

The Call To Leadership

Posted by March 25, 2019 • Share:

Strength In Character

During the Passover season, we retell the story of our ancestors’ fight to escape from bondage. As the story goes, Moses was minding his own business, tending to his sheep, when he heard his name echoing through the hillside. The voice, it appeared, was coming from a bush that was engulfed in flame without being consumed. This was his call to leadership. Of course, we don’t all get called to our roles as leaders in such grandiose ways.

Moses was asked to stand up in front of the (metaphorical) room and be the voice of his community. This is a very important form of leadership, though certainly not the only form. Each of us is called to leadership in different ways, and being a leader looks different for each of us. Not everyone leads from the front of the room or the top of the leaderboard. Some of us lead from the middle of the group, some from the side, and others step up by stepping back.

In sports, as in life, the greatest leaders are not always the ones with the most media attention or with the most friends on Insta. A recent article about Clippers guard Lou Williams talks about his indispensable role within his team, as a player who has come off the bench for most of his career. He shared that he understood that he was not meant to be the top-scoring player, always in the limelight. His strength was his ability to step into any position on the court and be a rock for his team. He showed true leadership and strength of character by helping his team, the fans, and the world see the importance of knowing yourself and your value. By stepping back from the limelight, he was able to step up into his true role as a leader.*

Leadership may look different to each one of you. But one thing is clear: each of you has the capacity to lead, and each of you is Strong in Character!

* Lou Williams has twice won the 6th Man of the Year Award and is now the all-time leader in bench scoring.
Do you know someone who has displayed Strength in Character in your community? Nominate them now!

Nominate Someone Today

Strength in Character – Purim Edition

Posted by March 21, 2019 • Share:

Strength In Character

By Brent Osborne

This month Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of Purim, commemorating the savior of the Jewish people by Queen Esther from Haman. The story of Purim honors those individuals who stand up for their core values.

Even when she was sequestered in darkness, Queen Esther called upon her strength and courage to save the Jewish people. Like a superhero, she had clear demarcations of right and wrong etched into the granite of her character.

“Who knows if you have not come to your position for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

There is no better time than now to discuss the importance of righteous action with your children. At camp, we start small by teaching our campers what it means to act with integrity when faced with ethical decisions. Integrity is about more than just being honest; it’s about doing what is right for the right reason.

As we recall the story of Purim, be inspired to act for what is just and awaken your inner Superhero by living with integrity. We too can tap into our own hidden super powers and transform our communities.

Do you know someone who has displayed Strength in Character in your community? Nominate them now!

Nominate Someone Today

Meet Lauren Bohne

Posted by January 9, 2019 • Share:

Our Team is Growing…Welcome Lauren Bohne, our new Operations Director!

As our community grows, so does our leadership team. We’re very excited to announce that Lauren Bohne has joined us as Operations Director.  

Lauren was born and raised in New York City. She moved to the Bay Area four years ago and while she does not miss the East Coast winters, she does often crave a New York bagel. Here is a bit more info about Lauren’s camp history and even a few fun facts!

Which Kind of Camps Have You Worked at Previously?

Most recently I was the Camp and Youth Director at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.  While there, I oversaw the growth of Camp Kehillah, the only Jewish day camp in Marin. I have always loved playing outdoors and I’ll take any excuse to wear a rainbow tutu, so my summers have always been dedicated to camping! From a camper to CIT, to counselor, Head Counselor, Unit Supervisor, and Director, I have enjoyed almost every role there is at camp. Day camp, sleep-away camp and travel programs – I’ve experienced them all as a camper and as a staff member. And through it all one thing is clear: life’s most important lessons are learned at Jewish summer camp.

How Has Judaism Fit into Your Camping Work?

I grew up in the Reform Jewish movement, as an active participant in my Temple Youth Group and NFTY. I started my career as the Youth Director at a reform congregation in New York. I have worked in Jewish Day Schools in LA and as an education director in Boston. I have lead retreats, Tikkun Olam-based alternate break experiences and trips to Israel. I have taught every grade in Religious School – these days you can find me hanging out with 1st graders in San Rafael on Sundays.

Tell us a Fun Fact (or three) About Yourself?

Let’s see…I played Field hockey in high school, which required wearing bright orange uniforms. Go Eagles! I am currently on a quest to visit all 60 National Parks. I’ve been to 37 parks so far and 49 of the 50 states – Alaska, I’m coming for you!  Recently I started training for my very first half marathon with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge. It’s a LOT of miles, but it’s a worthy cause.


What are you most excited for this summer?

I am excited for everything! I can’t wait to meet all of the campers and the staff. I am looking forward to song sessions, campfires and the Maccabi Cup! Plus, I am hoping to get some pointers on my jump shots and how to throw a football with a spiral.

Sports Movie Night Checklist

Posted by December 4, 2018 • Share:

Much of the Jewish religion centers around tradition – some dating back thousands of years. Whether it’s observing Shabbat, dipping our Apples in Honey on Rosh Hashanah, or lighting the menorah on Hanukkah, tradition is a key element in keeping our faith alive.

At JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, we too have many traditions. Every first Saturday at camp is dubbed “Sports Movie Night.” Just ask your camper; chances are they will still remember what movie we watched this past summer at camp.

Thankfully the holiday season brings families together to experience some quality time. As we enter the holiday season, we encourage you to find some time to bring a camp tradition into your home by hosting a sports movie night. Pick your favorite sports classic OR we recommend watching the 2003 Disney movie Full Court Miracle (available to stream on Amazon). Full Court Miracle is based on the true story of two real life characters – the University of Virginia basketball star Lamont Carr and the story of Alex Barbag.

Much like the Maccabees, this movie tells the tale of a Jewish, youth basketball team in the face of insurmountable odds and celebrates the miracle of dedication and human courage.

Here are some things you’ll need to make your Camp Sports Movie Night complete:

  • Everyone must wear their PJs and bring a blanket and pillow.
  • Surprise your kids by inviting some of their best buddies without them knowing – maybe a local camp friend!
  • Snacks are essential – popcorn and M&Ms are our typical go-to.
  • Be sure to have a quick “Cabin-Time” after to discuss the movie. Ask things like which character they would want to be and why and talk about the morals within the movie.

We hope your family’s sports movie might is a success! From all of us at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, we wish you and your family a Happy Hanukkah and a joyous Festival of Lights.

Camper Review 5 Years of Maccabi Experiences

Posted by November 21, 2018 • Share:

Individual Efforts Build Strong Jewish Community

In our recent post celebrating our 5th summer we reflected on the growth and achievements of our community as a whole. Just like a sports team, the impact JMSC has in our community is a collection of individual efforts. For us, campers are the most important players on our team.

We have seen many athletes develop unique skills that show they’ve developed strength in character. During the summer of 2018, many of them were able to:

  • Reflect on lessons learned and share with camp
  • Model engagement & ownership of our camp culture
  • Appreciate the supporters (parents, staff, & fellow campers) that fostered their growth

Below are Josh Pennington’s reflections shared with the entire camp at the closing of his fifth and final summer as a camper.

Jewish Baseball Games Camp Maccabi

Camper Reflections on 5 Years of Maccabi Sports

On the final night of the final session of our 2018 summer, Josh Pennington shared reflections and guidance to younger campers. After 5 years as a camper, this was Josh’s final night as a camper.

Upon delivering the speech with heart and love, Josh walked over to Josh Steinharter, Camp Director, and they hugged. Amidst their embrace, Josh handed over his speech and said “I want you to have this so you can share it with others.”

“The last day I’ll ever be a camper. The last time I’ll say goodbye as I wait for my parents to pick me up.

I can still remember when Josh (Steinharter) came to my synagogue trying to get campers for a brand new Jewish sports camp. It sounded fun and I wasn’t disappointed. Session 3, 2014 had very few kids and it was awesome getting to know each one as well as the staff. I remember not having any maturity, but hey, what can you expect from a 12-year old.

Around this time for the last 4 years, I left camp eager to have another great camper experience next year. This year is different. Instead of happiness and excitement, I’m feeling sad and regretful. Regretful because I could have done more. Sad because I didn’t.

If I had known, or even thought about the future, I wouldn’t have messed around or been angry at other people. I wouldn’t’ve taken my camp days for granted.

And after 5 years, 6 sessions, 72 days, 1,728 hours, 103,680 minutes, 6,220,800 seconds, I’ve learned a couple lessons.

Treat people with respect. It’s fine to screw around a bit, but once they say it isn’t ok, stop. Include everyone, to a certain point. When playing a game, let others join in, even if you don’t know or like them. They will feel happy and who knows, maybe you will too. Get to know people. I find it uncomfortable to do things with strangers, and walking around camp not knowing someones name is kind of awkward.

And finally, have fun. You can’t be happy if you have no fun. Make everyday, every minute, every second more fun than the last. That is the only way to have a great camp experience, and that is the point of camp.

I challenge you all to make next year more fun and leave a positive mark on camp because one day you’ll be up here like me, wishing you could like this forever.”

– Josh Pennington

More Reflections from Campers

It often takes time and reflection for new and challenging experiences to become impactful. This is especially so of a summer camp that builds Jewish community in the way that we do.

Questions to ask your camper that attended last summer:

  • What are some character moments that you’re proud of from last summer? How did you grow stronger in character at Maccabi?
  • To learn from Josh’s reflections, what are some things you would like to have done differently?
  • If you could give a new camper advice for their first summer, what would you tell them?

We will continue to share how campers reflect on their experiences attending Maccabi throughout the year. Please contact us if you or your camper have thoughts that you’d like to share with us.